Samsung NX200 Dynamic Range (JPEG)
Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from the camera's clipped white point down to black (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' (defined as 50% luminance) and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).
To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail above middle gray the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test the line on the graph stops as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.
With the Smart Range feature switched off the NX200's default tone curve is a little steeper in the highlights, with just under half a stop less highlight range, than the major competitors in this this bracket of the market. The NX200's steeper curve means there can be a rather abrupt transition from near-white pixels to clipped data, for example in clouds or an overcast sky.
Smart Range is Samsung's dynamic range expansion option, designed for use when faced with high contrast scenes to balance highlight and shadow detail. This feature is shared with previous Samsung models and offers only two settings - on or off. In our studio test Smart Range gives you a stop of additional highlight range, moving Smart Range on a similar level with other manufacturers' dynamic range enhancement features. In practice the results and effectiveness of the feature vary from scene to scene. On the downside you loose some low contrast detail in the shadow areas due to increased noise reduction. To see a sample and get an idea of how Smart Range works in the real world, head over to the 'Photographic Tests' page of this review.
The Samsung NX200 has eight 'Picture Wizard' presets in addition to the default standard mode. The tone curves of all these settings are nearly identical apart from 'Portrait' and 'Calm' which are a little less contrasty. The point at which the highlights clip also varies a little bit from setting to setting but the differences are marginal and none of the settings will get you an extra amount of highlight range that would be noticeable in real life.
The 'Standard' setting is a relatively neutral starting point and gives you some leeway for general editing and tone-curve adjustments in post-production. If you'd like things a little more punchy 'Vivid' is a good option. The NX200 also offers three custumizable settings for those who like to play with their own parameters. For each custom setting you can set an individual color, saturation, sharpness and contrast value.